Talking robots, singing dolls and baby laptops — there are so many electronic toys designed to help develop children’s language skills. But are they really better than traditional toys when it comes to encouraging language development?
It’s my experience that electronic toys, while often very entertaining, actually make it less likely that babies - and their carers - will engage in the verbal exchanges that are so crucial for developing language skills. Despite being marketed as language-promoters, these toys tend to remove opportunities for parents and children to communicate. They do the exact opposite of what they are supposed to.
So what toys are best for helping to develop language? The answer is almost anything can provide a talking point - from building blocks to board books, there is something to say about almost anything they can see or feel or hear. Colours, shapes, sounds and stories can all be talked about. Whether it’s about a beautiful view, or an old sock, nothing beats the natural, verbal to-and-fro that happens between a child and their parent or carer. Add in a few nursery rhymes and that's all you'll ever need. If you're ever persuaded by the marketing of the latest 'educational' toy, ask yourself, Did Emily Bronte or Jane Austen need one of these?
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